When I'm 38

I read a New Yorker profile of Paul McCartney not along ago, and was struck by something he said:

There were four people in the Beatles, and I was one of them. There were two people in the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team, and I was one of them. I mean, right there, that’s enough for anyone’s life. And there was one guy who wrote ‘Yesterday,’ and I was him….All those things would be enough for anyone’s life. So to be involved in all of them is pretty surprising.

What a humble way of thinking about his life, I thought. As though being in the Beatles was just something that happened to him, just a magnificent stroke of luck, instead of something that required a great deal of talent and hard work.

Last week Miep Gies, the woman who hid Anne Frank’s family from the Nazis, died at the age of 100. An NPR profile of her life included this quote from a 1997 interview:

I don't want to be considered a hero. Imagine young people would grow up with the feeling that you have to be a hero to do your human duty. I am afraid nobody would ever help other people, because who is a hero? I was not. I was just an ordinary housewife and secretary.

I think her humility is even more impressive. And inspiring.

My mom taught my Sunday School class when I was in junior high and high school. One Sunday we were discussing gifts and talents, and Mom made the comment that you didn’t have to be rich and famous to make an impact on the world. Her talent was music, she said, and she used it when she played the organ in church and directed the choir. Oh, big whoop, I thought, because I was 13 and because I was convinced that someday I would be a famous author.

But now I know she’s right. (To my credit, I did not just figure this out, like, today.) The world does not require grand gestures of everyone. Not everyone can be in the Beatles. Small gestures are usually enough, if they are done in the right spirit (and not in the hopes that the person you help will wind up being a celebrity diarist).

I turn 38 today. I don’t know if I’ve made the most of my life so far. I’d like to make more gestures, even small ones, as I head towards 40.


aimee said...

That was beautifully written. I think you have made a tremendous impact on our world.

Karen said...

I think that you have made a great impact on my world. And I'm glad that you figured it out!

Several years ago we went to see Ringo Starr. In the course of introducing the next song in the concert he said, "This is a song that I played in a little band that I once belonged to." The song was Michelle, my Belle! And of course the little band was the Beatles.

Hope that you had a great day.